February 11, 2012

Gujarat CM Narendra Modi now one step closer to PM post

In a development that could pave the way for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi 's smooth entry into national politics and even help him realise his prime ministerial ambitions, Supreme Court-appointed amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran has apparently concurred with the Special Investigation Team (SIT) in absolving the BJP leader of all charges of wrongdoing in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

It was learnt on Thursday that Ramachandran agreed with the SIT findings on all major issues. The amicus curiae's report was earlier being speculated to have punched holes in the SIT deductions and indicted the chief minister. As a matter of fact, Modi's detractors were banking on Ramachandran's report to accuse the SIT of conducting the probe in a partisan manner.

"Ramachandran has agreed to most of the findings," a highly placed SIT source said. "His entry into national politics is a matter of time," a senior Modi loyalist gushed. "There is no stopping him now," an equally enthusiastic BJP worker claimed. This marked a dramatic turnaround for the fortunes of the CM as the decision came barely 24 hours after the Gujarat High Court accused him of "inaction" during the riots, leading to the destruction of places of worship. To be sure, the indictment was followed by the "leakage" of the SIT report which overshadowed the HC order.

While the taint of the 2002 Gujarat riots had severely dented Modi's image in terms of his national acceptability - particularly among the Muslim community and secular-minded allies of the BJP-led NDA - the report of an all-clear by the amicus curiae as well as SIT will at least cleanse the legal taint and remove all obstacles to his smooth passage to Delhi.

It was further disclosed that the investigation had failed to prove any of the charges levelled against Modi who, according to the report, did not have prior information regarding the imminent threat to the life of former Congress MP Ehsaan Jaffri. The latter was killed in the Gulbarg Society massacre on February 28, 2002. Significantly, the complaint filed by Ehsaan's widow Zakia was the only one directly naming Modi as an accused in the riots.

Zakia had earlier lodged the complaint against the CM as well as 62 other senior politicians as well as bureaucrats for aiding and abetting the mass carnage in Gujarat in 2002.

Suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt had also filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court in the case last year, alleging that he was present in the meeting held at the CM's residence on the evening of February 27, 2002, where Modi had allegedly told senior policemen to allow the Hindus to vent their ire on the minority community.

But the SIT was understood to have said that Modi had taken appropriate steps in containing the riots in the context of the law and order situation prevailing in the state during that period. It was further believed to have seen justification in the charred bodies of karsevaks being brought to Ahmedabad because there were no cold storages or DNA matching facilities in Godhra. The transporting of the bodies had sparked the spiral of minority killings in Gujarat.

The amicus curie reportedly agreed with these contentions of the SIT.

The SIT was said to have maintained that the statements made by Bhatt and his driver Tarachand Yadav regarding the meeting could not be relied upon when juxtaposed with those of all the other officers present there. The SIT stated that even Ramachandran found Bhatt to be "motivated" and "strategising for the Opposition (read Congress)".

While the Supreme Court had asked the SIT, formed under the chairmanship of former CBI Director R.B. Raghavan, to look into the complaint in March 2010, the apex court also appointed Ramachandran as the amicus curiae. The SC asked the SIT to file its report in the lower court in September last year.

Coincidentally, the twin clean chit was perfectly timed for the Gujarat CM. It came even as Modi was winding up his Sadbhavana (amity) Mission. The former 'Hindu Hriday Samrat' had lately gone into overdrive to effect a massive image makeover with an eye on Delhi.

He had launched the campaign, in which he observed a series of fasts for communal harmony and made his prime ministerial aspirations apparent, in September 2011. Modi will observe his last sadbhavana fast at Ambaji on Sunday. Earlier, he had also tacitly reached out to prospective NDA allies like J. Jayalalithaa and Mayawati.

While Modi enjoys massive public support in Gujarat, his aspiration to become the PM has been fraught with difficulty owing to the taint of the 2002 Gujarat riots.

"There is a dedicated supporter base for Narendrabhai in Gujarat and they don't need a clearance from SIT to vote for him," BJP's spokesperson in Gujarat Vijay Rupani said. However, the party's reaction, both in the state and at the Centre, had been predicated on Modi's success in getting himself rid of the riot taint of 2002 at least in legal terms.

A sulking Modi had earlier refused to canvass in Uttar Pradesh during the ongoing assembly elections. Now, he was once again being requested by the party to blaze the campaign trail in the all-important polls. And he was likely to oblige, state BJP members felt.

Party insiders maintained that Modi could agree to campaign in UP after the completion of the Sadbhavana Mission to placate the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and ensure his move to Delhi.

Gujarat goes to polls at the end of this year and political analysts felt Modi was raring to go to Delhi after the election for his foray into national politics. What had, however, raised doubts about the Gujarat CM's smooth transition was his bulldozing the BJP's national leadership with the Sadbhavana Mission and ruffling the feathers of onetime mentor L.K. Advani in particular.

No comments:

Post a Comment